As discussed in my many other posts on Myanmar (because I want to do it justice guys! As much justice as one can give experiences 6 months laterz – my b) I knew very little about Myanmar before I left. So how was I meant to know that there are legit THINGS TO DO IN MYANMAR – like holiday things, like relaxing holidays – rejoice!
First Up Kalaw:
I loved Kalaw, it helped a lot that the hotel we stayed in was luxe as. But it was the place that finally we got to do something unique. We went on a 20k hike! Have you seen me, do I look like a hiker? I loved the whole vibe. The hike was mostly up hill, which also meant I loved that I no longer have issues with altitude – but that’s another story.
Kalaw had a much higher presence of military which was a shock, but considering the context of the country, not a surprise. As in it was shocking to see them in a place so tranquil. Most of our tour got legit gastro at this point on the tour so the pace slowed, we got to experiment more in our eating, so let me focus for 100 words or so.
Kalaw is a mountainous town that has a hub of hotels for tourists but for the most part seems untouched and still has a strong local vibe. It is where my Grandad wanted to retire, lucky he never knew of the military station. The tour included a 20 k trek, as sited above. We set out on this walk and it was glorious. It was a pretty easy trek but I understand you can do a lot more in Kalaw, there were mountain biker tracks and multiple day treks, however I would suggest a guide. WE wound through a number of different landscapes, happening upon naturally growing menthol trees, tea farms, large amounts of illegal land clearing, large amount of plastic rubbish piles from tourists and locals alike, illegal villages, and a rainforest! We were invited to lunch with the locals, saw orange trees and as I said, I LOVED it.
At the top of the walk we had a traditional curry lunch. It was in this moment I realised my family decidedly did not export any recipes with fresh greens or salads, who knew Myanmar food was more than curry!?
Kalaw also has these phenomenal cave temples. It took a number of attempts to find these caves. In the end we accidentally stumbled into the military base and was escorted to the cave – so be warned. These caves were filled with thousands of Buddha statues, all covered in blankets to keep him warm in winter! My heart melts.
I would love to return to Kalaw, it has inspired me to do many more active holiday destinations, because it is so rewarding.
Inle Lake is itself so mesmerising. Get yourself on one of those petrol boats and rock around the lake. Famed for the fishermen that fish with their feet, the lake is a vision. It is however, very touristy. You will stop at the largest restaurants, jewellers, silk and lotus fabric houses etc in the hopes you will buy. If you don’t mind that, these places are also fantastic ways to see life of people on Inle Lake. For instance, many of the weavers in the lotus houses are older people. This is in part due to young people not finding this trade attractive and I think also because retirement does not exist in Myanmar. It was a beautiful place to visit and I found the weavers extraordinarily open.
We got an extra special visit into one of the houses on Inle Lake because our guide’s family friend lives there. It was eye opening. A whole family, Mum, Dad, children, children partners, children’s children all in the one 3 bedroom house on stilts. They all sleep in the same room! Makes you wonder how there are so many children…
Anyway, Inle is a glorious unique experience when you can pierce through the amusement park factor of it. It is a lake with villages, restaurants, farms all on water.
The village we stayed in was less picturesque but had a lot of western comorts to treat yourself.
I wanted to learn more about Myanmar food and culture – der – and so did a cooking lesson. The lesson was at Bamboo Delight which is a cooking school run by a local family. The classes are half day and you get to cook and eat, which is ideal. The cooking school is interested in giving back to the community and use 15% of proceeds from every cooking class to fund their summer school and library project to with the help of volunteers teach English to the kids.
And with that, we took a small, terrifying (THEY DIDN’T ASSIGN SEATS) flight back to Yangon for my next adventure to begin with my Dad!